Wednesday, 20 December 2017

VPC2017: Mistress katherine's Dog Collar, Puppet Theatre Towers & Bookmarks

The increasingly prolific Mistress katherine adds the following to her Challenge entry hoard.

Firstly, a medieval dog collar for the category Togs Togs Undies! 

This is a dog collar, based on the comments by Gaston Phoebus in 15C Book of the Hunt, and from illuminated manuscripts. Common features: red velvet, embroidery with gold thread or wire, a leashing ring, single eyelet, rumbler bells, studs of various kinds. Modelled by Mercalli ("what a good dog!"). Here's a good site with lots of doggy and hunt info.
And a good image from Gaston Phoebus of white pointy-eared dogs with collars.
Mistress katherine says: 
I was particularly delighted to read that the Boke of St Albans describes the kind of dogs to be found in a medieval Scottish town including a 'prick-eared cur'

The next entry is new towers for the puppet theatre at Canterbury Faire, made from scavenged cedar shingles and painted up like 14-15C examples. These are for the category Out Of Your Comfort Zone, which katherine assures us she was.

She says: 
This took me out of my comfort zone -- I had to use power tools and -- worse-- ask an unknown neighbour for permission to raid his construction skip. I also looked at the shingles after I'd painted them and realised that circular saw marks were clearly visible, which Master Edward confirmed was a no-no to proper woodworker eyes, so I flipped them over and sanded them down to start again.

Some examples of puppet theatres in manuscripts can be found at the Bodleian here and another example here.

Finally (at least for now!) - bookmarks in baronial colours for the largesse chest. From the 12C onwards, cords, threads of strips of leather were attached to beads, buttons and similar shapes to make stand-alone bookmarks. Multi-threaded bookmarks were particularly popular amongst the clergy for flipping back and forth in service books. These are for the category Fly The Colours, but they also meet the requirements for Give What You Get. More information about these from katherine here.

Friday, 1 December 2017

VPC2017: Dona Isabel Maria's Marchpane

A delicious and delightful entry from Dona Isabel Maria - Marchpane! This is for the categories Back To Basics, Show Us Your Arms and Fly The Colours.

She says: 
I began with a copy of 'The English Hus-wif' by Gervase Markham, a packet of raw almonds, a packet of caster sugar, a bottle of rose water, a mortar and pestle and a quiet evening.  Some time later I had 'searced' (powdered) sugar. Some considerable time after that, I had a lump of raw marchpane, two sore arms and a strong resolve to buy a spice grinder. 
I followed the rest of the instructions (kneading, rolling it out, adorning it, washing with rose water etc) but with a few modifications. I ignored the wafers (not having any) and decided to have a go colouring the 'ice' (icing) using plausibly period ingredients. The red was colour was created with a couple of drops of beetroot juice in some powdered sugar and rose water, while the green came from boiling up some rosemary and parsley from my garden. The decorated marchpanes were then baked in a relatively cool oven until they were just beginning to colour.
However, the colours did not really develop as I had hoped, so I applied additional coats. I tested the differences between baking it before icing it, and icing the raw marchpane, as well as the difference between letting it dry between coats and baking it between coats to see if there was any appreciable difference I could use in future experiments. 
Taste: the finished items were taken to a household sewing day, to add to the lunch table. The general consensus was that the marchpane was tasty, even for those people who actively avoid modern marzipan. I personally found it fairly irresistible and hope to experiment further in the future.

Monday, 20 November 2017

VPC2017: Lady Melissa's Winter Hood

Lady Melissa brings us this lovely hood for the categories The Neck Best Thing, Cover Me, Counting on Sheep, Tis the Season, Give What You Get

She says:
This hood was made in the 13th century style, and can be worn as either an open hood or a fitted hood. The outer shell is wool, and it is fully lined with winter coat possum fur; period pieces would have been lined with rabbit or, for the very wealthy, ermine. All of the fur was hand-pieced and hand sewn. Only the central (hidden) seam in the hood was machine sewn. The buttons are self-fabric. There is a central plate with button holes because the test pattern did not fully account for the thickness of the possum fur, and it would not close without choking the wearer. While I have not seen a similar device in illuminations, it would be a suitable period solution.

This item is for a very lovely lady I met at Canterbury Faire (she may have to share with her family, though!). I was very glad to be able to work with the possum furs, which were luxurious and provided by the family. They are all relatively new to the SCA, and I hope that they enjoy their next CF with some additional warmth!

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

VPC2017: Lady Mathilda's Hood

Lady Mathilda presents this hood for the categories Cover Me and The Neck Best Thing.

She says:

This hood is the first I have made in a long time, and definitely the first that I have properly researched.
The hood is made of vibrant pink linen lining and a grey tabby woven wool outer with medium length liripipe.
It is based off a hood (D10597)  that forms part of the Herjolfsnes finds from Greenland from around the beginning of the fourteenth century.
I have chosen to make the hood a bit bigger than the origonal, as I wanted to have lots of room for comfort.
As in manuscripts from much of England and Western Europe at the beginning of the fourteenth century, the hood is often depicted with some lines of decoration around the bottom. I have included this in my hood- by adding two rows of parallel chain stitch in light and dark blue Appeltons’ Embroidery wool.
The hood is handstitched using running and back-stitch, and is fully felled.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

VPC2017: Mistress katherine's Garters and Swaddling Clothes

The garters are presented for category Hitting Below The Knee

Mistress katherine says:
I saw the trim at Pennsic and loved it as it has my tower, even if I had to settle for green, rather than white. But I knew the pattern was far too mundane to use visibly (I'm sure I'm not the only one who asks herself "What would Mistress Rowan say?"). So, having repurposed the lovely garters Catherine d'Arc made me into a travel coronet, I thought a pair of garters would let me use the trim in a hidden but useful fashion, and answer another VP challenge. I sewed petersham ribbon on the back for sturdiness and grip, added pewter buckles cast by Sir Sebastian, and whacked a grommet in for a hole. They keep the new hose (Mistress Ginevra's creation) up nicely.

The Swaddling Clothes are presented for the category of Containment System, and Mistress katherine adds that this is for the baby, not their by-products! 

Futher, she says:
This is part of the Venetian swaddling band my mother wrapped me and my short-lived brothers in.

Swaddling bands appear in a number of Renaissance paintings , such as  Laviania Fontana's Newborn Baby in a Crib (1583)
Extant Italian examples from the 1570-90s can be seen in the V&A and Met. Typically they are made of white linen doubled up and edged with a lace or embroidered band (including whitework, reticella, stem sttich, interlacing); rectangular at the wider end (12-24cm) and tapering to a point along a 2-3-metre length. The shape is to allow a spiral band of the fancy work to show as the final layer of swaddling cloth is wrapped around the child. A V&A example can be found here.
This one is made of a linen-like cotton from my scrap pile; with lace purchased on Burano, the lace-making island in the Venetian lagoon; and Spotlight trim whip-stiched on as an edge.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

VPC2017: Lady Melissa's Tablet Woven Belt

Lady Melissa presents this tablet woven belt for the categories  Out of Your Comfort Zone, String Theory, and Counting on Sheep.

She says:
This tablet-woven belt was made using motifs from historical Finnish tablet weaving, which uses more threaded-in patterning and less brocade than historical Scandinavian pieces. The outer yellow strands were hand-spun from raw fleece and dyed yellow with rosemary. The thicker blue was handspun as well. The rest was commercial embroidery wool. The colors are the same as Melissa's heraldry. This was an interesting and challenging project for Melissa, as it was her second attempt at tablet weaving, and much longer than the previous (failed!) project.

Friday, 20 October 2017

VPC2017: Her Excellency Ginevra's Sailor's Hat

From Her Excellency, a 16th Century sailors hat, for the categories The Neck Best Thing, String Theory and Oh Say Can You Sea.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

VPC2017: Meisterin Christian and Dona Isabel Maria's Article About Cupboards & Baldequins

Meisterin Christian and Dona Isabel Maria wrote this article for FTT - it meets the categories An Essay Of A Thousand Words and Those Who Can Also Teach.

Meisterin Christian writes:
We decided to write this article because several people asked about the cupboard and baldequin that we put together as part of the decorations at Baronial Anniversary 2017, and we wanted to provide some background and period examples. We hope we can show that the arts and sciences can also support the service / stewarding aspects of our society, and we encourage stewards to do a little research to find ways in which they can enhance their events in a more period fashion.

Nice Little Touches (for event stewarding)

This article is to give you a little historical background to a couple of hall decorating 'touches' we have used (most recently at Baronial Anniversary 2017). 

Members of our household had volunteered to steward the event, so as is our custom we looked for ways to support them in that task.  We decided that we'd like to tackle the hall decoration, as between our camping gear and event stewarding kits, we had enough "schmutter" (thanks to Baron Oswyn for the word "schmutter" meaning ‘all that cool stuff in the background that enhances the period feel and atmosphere’) such as curtains, chandeliers, candle lanterns, and so on readily available to dress the hall.

While it takes a fair bit of work to fully decorate a hall (and we'd like to extend our profound thanks to everyone who helped put up and take down the decorations), we believe it’s worth the effort to try and capture the period ambience of the kind of world we strive to recreate in the SCA; in this case, a late period Italian noble’s feast hall.  We also appreciate the kind words of all those who enjoyed the hall dressings.  The hall at Baronial Anniversary this year (Rimu Park) is a tough customer.  No matter the decoration, it’s hard to miss the underlying "airplane hangar" construction, and in summer the glazed roof lets in too much light for candles to be really effective.  On the positive side there are plenty of structures from which to hang e.g. the chandeliers and banners, and the side alcoves can be curtained off to create more intimate areas.  The hall was missing some tables this time so that did make the design a little more challenging than usual and meant we were not able to complete everything we had planned.

Period illuminations and paintings provide a rich source for researching information about decorations for feast halls.  While it is important to treat, especially illuminations, with some caution, the frequent appearance of similar decorations and types of furniture, and in some cases their concordance with extant or later pieces, suggests there are some useful conclusions we can draw from such sources.  A range of 14th to 16th century illustrations featuring feasting scenes can be found below.  The two particular features of decoration we'd like to focus on in this article are the baldachin / baldequin and the "cupboard".  We have used these before at feasts and events, and we'd like to share a little information about period examples, and suggestions for their recreation in the SCA.

The baldachin / baldequin:
The baldachin / baldequin was the canopy that hung over and behind Their Excellencies at the high table at Baronial Anniversary 2017.  You may have seen this at other events, including for example hanging over Their Majesties at 12th Night Coronation Feast (Canterbury Faire) in 2016 (see below). 

The baldachin / baldequin at the Feast at 12th Night / Canterbury Faire 2016.

The baldachin / baldequin at the Feast of Saint Percival in 2009.

 In period a baldachin / baldequin (or canopy of state, or cloth of honour) was a ceremonial canopy that was placed over a throne or high table etc as a symbol of authority and status of those who sat beneath.  The canopy was most often made of fine fabric (for example see Figure 1 below; the name baldachin / baldequin is derived from the term for a particular luxurious type of fabric) but later could also be made of various more permanent materials.  Canopies might also be mobile and carried above important personages during processions (as was the case for Baron Sigurd and Baroness Eleonora at their investiture as Baron and Baroness Southron Gaard). 

Of particular interest here are the baldachin / baldequin fabric canopies used in feast halls.  A number of period illustrations featuring a range of styles of baldachin / baldequin can be seen at the end of this article.  These canopies were placed over the highest ranking person(s) at the high table, and comprised a 'roof', and 'wall(s)' that usually fell behind the thrones or chairs.  The roof often, but not always, had a ‘valence’ around the edge (for example, Figure 2). These canopies most often appear to be made of fabric, and can be decorated with heraldic elements (heraldic colours or motifs) such as those in Figures 2 and 7 below.  How the canopy was suspended is not always clear from the illustrations; some appear to be suspended from above (for example, Figures 1 and 3), others appear to be free-standing with supports that are not visible (for example Figures 2, 6 and 8).  In a smaller number of illustrations an architectural framework frames or supports the canopy (for example Figures 5 and 10).

Our baldachin / baldequin is made from a blue brocade fabric (originally made for a Caidan royal visit), and we later added a (white) trim similar to those in Figures 2 and 8 below which gave the canopy more visual definition and made the blue fabric “pop”.  The canopy is now also decorated with heraldic motifs (white stars) as we modified it for use for Lochac Royalty.   Baron Oswyn painted a beautiful Lochac ‘achievement of arms’ for 12th Night Coronation in 2016, which can be optionally attached to the back drapery.  The canopy is a very simple design: the roof of the canopy is braced and the whole thing is suspended from the roof (or similar structures) of the feast hall by cords.  The back drape reaches to the floor and can be optionally weighted, tied down or braced.  We have experimented with a more free-standing baldachin / baldequin, but have yet to come up with an easily portable and erectable design; the canopy really also needs to be suspended from a roof (in the very least as a safety measure in our shaky city) and few halls here have the means to do this safely and conveniently.  We have plans to make another hopefully more elaborate Southron Gaard baldachin / baldequin if we are able to find appropriate fabric.  The (SCA) Kingdom of Aethelmearc recently received a new baldequin in brocade with a heraldic decoration:

The baldachin / baldequin helps bring the focus of attention in the room to the high table, and marks out and orients the room to the Royals or the Baron and Baroness.  A sumptuous fabric and / or heraldic decoration can enhance the display.  The canopy also has the advantage of reducing breezes on the back of the thrones, delineating “Royal Presence”, and hiding all manner of poor hall architecture (or modern decoration) as well as practical bits and pieces behind the throne.

The “cupboard”:

The "cupboard" we refer to here is the table or cabinet-top display of fine plates and other metal vessels (which I will refer to here as “fine plate”) that stood by the door at Baronial Anniversary.  You will have seen several of these that we have done before at previous events.  See below for two event photographs.

The “cupboard” at a previous Baronial Anniversary.

The “cupboard” at Baronial Anniversary 2017.

The period names for this and similar types of furniture are somewhat unclear.  Looking at illustrations of period feasts it’s possible to see a number of different types of shelving or cupboards in feast halls; for example a cupboard with doors (usually described as an ambry), a cupboard from upon which it appears wine was served, the cupboard / table display of fine plate, open shelving units of various kinds, etc.  Our focus is on this display of fine plate. 
These “cupboards” do not appear to have a functional aspect at the feast; food or drink is not served from them as we might serve from a ‘buffet’ today.  The display of wealth and status through the display of expensive metal ware (which is not used for feast service but is only for display) is the key to this piece.  These pieces of furniture have a number configurations and structures throughout time and space, but common elements include a cloth covering the cupboard or shelves (for example Figures 1, 8, 10) and placed upon that a tiered display of fine plate (gold or silver (or perhaps even pewter) plates, dishes and other vessels; for example, Figures 1,2 8-12). Some “cupboards” even have a little wooden or fabric canopy over the top (for example Figures 2 and 8).  A number of period illustrations featuring a range of styles of the cupboard display can be seen at the end of this article.
Carrying about a large purpose-built wooden cupboard is impractical for SCA events, and even our nicest halls have not had furniture that could lend itself to this treatment.  We have therefore used a variety of tables, cupboards, boxes and shelf combinations to construct our cupboards, often cobbled together underneath with clips and tape.  The unexpected lack of tables at Baronial Anniversary meant we had to be a little inventive in our construction this year.  Baron Richard was also kind enough to make a wooden table top unit for this purpose. Fine cloths (we have used white linen, brocades, and carpet rugs) can add richness to the display, as well as hide an underlying non-period structure.  The "plate" comes from our personal feast and camping gear collections; sometimes we use silver tones, sometimes gold tones, and sometimes both.  Some of the plates are in pretty rough condition, yet look good at a distance and under candle light.  While other items aren’t generally seen on “cupboards” in period illustrations, we've used small items that work with the theme of the event, and also candles to help light and bring sparkle to the plate in halls where otherwise we have insufficient period lighting to illuminate such a display.  The "cupboard" is completely decorative and non-functional, but it is a large, strikingly non-modern, decorative element that takes reasonably minimal effort and brings period ambience to your hall.

Both these decorative traditions persist even today in some royal palaces.  Note Figure 13 below from a recent state banquet at Buckingham Palace where a baldachin / baldequin hangs over the thrones, and cupboards displaying golden plate are placed on either side of the hall. 
We'd like to encourage other stewards to take the opportunity to do a little research and find similar interesting period (decorative) ideas for enhancing their events.  We’d also like to encourage the populace to contribute to the period ambience of events; by bringing personal banners, dressing or decorating their tables, bringing candles and other lighting, and so on.  There are a number of categories in the Baronial Arts and Sciences Challenge that would provide some excellent scope for researching and recreating such items.  For more period examples, you might see our Pinterest pages (especially those on Table Settings, Tableware, Houses & Houseware, Lighting, and Wall Hangings and Decorations) for illustrations, ideas and inspiration.

Figure 1. Italy, 15thC. Canopy has elaborate brocade at the back and the front drop is trimmed with a fringe(?).  Cupboard with cloth and silver / pewter vessels, on the right.
Figure 2. French, 15thC.  Heraldic fabric back trimmed in red with red fringed canopy. Cupboard with canopy on the right.
Figure 3. English (?), 16thC.  Elaborately dagged and tasseled baldachin, with back dropped suspended (?) to allow the heat of the fire through to the high table in winter.
Figure 4. Italian, 15th.  The baldachin has a tassled (?) roof, and in this case sides rather than a back, perhaps to take advantage of the heat from the fire.  Cupboard (with fabric canopy?) on the left.
Figure 5. France, early 15th C.  The baldequin has an architectural frame with various fabric drapery.
Figure 6. French, 1420. A brocade baldequin with a particoloured fringe.
Figure 7. French, 14th C.  Three separate hangings with French heraldic motifs.
Figure 8. French 15thC.  Red baldequin with green trim and fringe.  Cupboard on the left (with it’s own built-in canopy).
Figure 9. Florence, 1460.  The cupboard 'shelves' are hollow 'boxes', and the front and wall behind are covered with draped cloths.  A mixture of dishes and jugs are placed on the board.
Figure 10. French, 15thC. Cupboard in the middle background, the cabinet covered in a white cloth with vessels also on 'shelves' above.  Architectural ‘canopy’ over the table on the left.
Figure 11. Florence, mid 15thC.  The cupboard is covered in the same cloth as the feast table, and contains tiers of plates and jugs.
Figure 12. Antwerp, 1523. The cupboard in back left is covered in a white cloth with tiers of plate and jugs.
Figure 13. Recent state banquet at Buckingham Palace with baldachin / baldequin over the thrones and the cupboards displaying golden plates etc on both sides of the hall.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

VPC2017: Her Excellency Ginevra's Tiniest Unicorn

This delightful piece of embroidery from Her Excellency Ginevra is for the categories Here Be Monsters, Show Us Your Arms, and Give What You Get.

Her Excellency says:

It is worked with silk thread, on silk, in split stitch (with thanks to Melissa for teaching me) and is 1.5 inches high. It's been given to Mistress Rowan, to be part of the Broiderers Guild of Lochac Banner.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

VPC2017: Lady Melissa's Belt With Bone Buckle and Strap End

This belt is an entry from Lady Melissa - she started the project before BA, but this is acceptable for the category Remake, Reuse, Refashion, Reconsider (and it also fits in Show Us Your Arms). I believe this makes Lady Melissa's fifth project, making her the second person to finish the five projects aspect of the Pentathlon, and earning her a prize to be awarded at a future event.

She says:

I started this project before BA, but it was sitting unfinished due to a number of challenges regarding safely riveting through bone and obtaining a suitable leather (which needed to be blue, as it was for Nathanael, whose device is a white stag on a blue field). I have finished it for the pentathlon challenge!
This is a belt with a bone buckle and strap end. The buckle was carved out of cow bone, and the strap end is carved out of sheep bone. The strap is commercially veg-tanned blue leather. The buckle is loosely based on the Borre belt buckle, which features two wolves rather than two deer. The strap end is based on a Jelling-style dragon strap end, modified to represent a stag instead. The belt is slightly less than 2cm wide.